Cautionary Tales: The British Media’s Handling of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

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This article explores the cultural construction of drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) in the British media. We consider the relationship between media reporting and belief in routine DFSA, and look at the ways in which DFSA is presented and received as a legitimate, plausible, and credible threat. As a media story, DFSA shares certain characteristics of the ‘crime legend’ and the ‘moral panic’, although it is, this article suggests, more appropriately conceived of as a ‘cautionary tale’. The final part of the article outlines the ‘cautionary tale’ as a paradigm for understanding media coverage. It is the victim and potential victim’s behaviour (as opposed to that of a folk devil) that is marginalised in the ‘cautionary tale’, and the threat is frequently represented as both external and internal to the individual, as resulting from an opportunistic attacker and/or one’s own negligent behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-320
Number of pages16
JournalCrime Media Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Sexual violence
  • media
  • drink-spiking
  • risk


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